Saturday, July 22, 2006

Investigation of the Bishop of San Joaquin Requested

From the diocese of San Joaquin:

We know that many of you are aware of certain rumors that have been floating recently indicating that four California bishops are making charges against the Bishop of San Joaquin that might lead to a presentment (an ecclesiastical trial).

To our knowledge, no action leading to a presentment has taken place. However, four California bishops have requested an investigation by the Title IV Review Committee.

According to a communication from Bishop Dorsey Henderson, who heads up the Review Committee, the Committee itself is still being formed. For our part, the Chancellors have already responded to the initial allegations by challenging the appropriateness of the specific Canon Law [IV.9] being used to bring charges. In short, these allegations are neither relevant nor justified.
Here's Title IV, Canon 9, Section 1:

CANON 9: Of Abandonment of the Communion of This Church by a Bishop
Sec. 1. If a Bishop abandons the communion of this Church (i) by an open
renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church, or (ii) by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with the same, or (iii) by exercising episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than this Church or another Church in communion with this Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as this Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in this Church; it shall be the duty of the Review Committee, by a majority vote of All the Members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop, with the consent of the three senior Bishops having jurisdiction in this Church, shall then inhibit the said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. During the period of Inhibition, the Bishop shall not perform any episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts, except as relate to the administration of the temporal affairs of the Diocese of which the Bishop holds jurisdiction or in which the Bishop is then serving.
Has Bishop Schofield made an "open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of this Church"? That is what the investigation will attempt to discern. Judging from some of the statements he is reported to have made at a clergy roundtable last year, as but one example, there seems to be some evidence that such an investigation is both relevant and justified:

...Bp. Schofield was pleased to have participated in a phone conference with 18 other bishops in which Archbishop Venables (Primate of Southern Cone) reported on the recent meeting in Ireland. Bishop Schofield told us that the Archbishop assured this group of bishops that the Anglican Communion is yours (i.e. the AAC's with its Network) in three years. Further, he told the bishops not to give over to those in authority, but to seek legal counsel to protect your selves. He told them to stop complaining, be positive, and to start planting churches to build up the Network...

...Bp. Schofield indicated that the separation might happen as soon as in a few months or at least by General Convention 2006. He assured us that the switching sides (understood as the Network taking the place of the Episcopal Church) would happen by next year and we would not have to wait until Lambeth 2008.

He expects the majority of primates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, to disenfranchise the Episcopal Church by acknowledging the Network as the only Anglican Church in North America . He told us that the decision needs to be made (i.e., we need to make this decision to leave behind the Episcopal Church and align ourselves with the Anglican Communion) because the split is already here.

Bp Schofield gave permission for us to take the name Episcopal out of church signs and replace it with the word Anglican.

A member of the clergy questioned our sending deputies to the General Convention in 2006, because to do so would imply that we place ourselves under the authority of the Convention and this might hurt us in future legal battles. Bp. Schofield responded by assuring us that a guild of lawyers was actively working on that question and that they are looking at the Episcopal Church constitution, diocesan constitutions, and the laws of various states, including our own (California). Bp. Schofield also stated that after our next diocesan convention (and the passing of the non-compliance canon) he can simply state that certain actions of General Convention do not line up with the Word of God and we will not have to accept them...
Here's the "non-comliance" canon passed by San Joaquin in 2005:

“Article II – Accession and/or Incorporation of the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States to the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin:

The Diocese of San Joaquin accedes to and/or incorporates the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America to the terms and provisions of the Constitution of the Diocese of San Joaquin to the extent that such terms and provisions, and any amendments thereto, adopted by the authority of the General Convention, are not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin, as amended form time to time, and ratified by any Diocesan Convention duly called and held.
So, what are your thoughts? Is an investigation appropriate?


UPDATE: The Living Church is now reporting this story, and offers us a little more information:

...At its annual meeting last October, delegates to San Joaquin’s convention approved the second reading of a change to Article II of its constitution to state that it “accedes to” the Canons and Constitution of the General Convention “to the extent that such terms and provisions” are “not inconsistent with the terms and provisions of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of San Joaquin.” The four believe this fact alone is sufficient to remove Bishop Schofield from office without trial.

If Bishop Schofield and other diocesan leadership were to leave The Episcopal Church and apply that clause of the diocesan constitution to the so-called Dennis Canon, there is concern by the four bishops that the California state courts might rule in San Joaquin’s favor and permit that diocese to retain possession of the property. Title I, canon 7.4 states that “all real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any parish, mission or congregation is held in trust for this Church and the diocese thereof in which such parish, mission or congregation is located,” although it has never been applied to an entire diocese.

In a July 11 interview with The Living Church, Bishop Swing said he and the other three California bishops with jurisdiction at the time the letter was sent are concerned that in several recent church property dispute cases California courts have awarded title to the congregation, applying a “neutral principles of law” rather than deferring to the denomination’s bylaws. Bishop Swing, who was chair of the House of Bishops’ task force on church property disputes until his July 22 retirement, said it was “unfathomable” that someone would try to retain property after having left The Episcopal Church. “It was given to us and we want to pass it on to the next generation,” he said...

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